I am a moron part 635

Ramit Sethi · November 3rd, 2006

God damnit.

$49.50 in library fines

I had checked out about 15 books, and I knew about 5 of them were overdue, but I didn’t get around to returning them for a couple weeks. This is really unusual of me, and I was feeling like quite the rebel, until I thought about it and realized I was feeling hardcore for not returning LIBRARY BOOKS. Then, last night when I logged in, it said I owed $298.00!!! Apparently if you don’t return books after a certain time, they just assume you lost them.

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If you can imagine the most horrified look of anguish and pain, that was me. I called them and got the fees reverted back to a more reasonable number. Oh, who am I kidding, $50 in fines is absurd. This is my stupid mistake of the quarter.

Earlier: How I deal with stupid money mistakes (something I didn’t mention in this article was that I’m now allocating $30/month for stupid mistakes, up to a max of $300, after which I recycle the money into my investment account and start over again).

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  1. A side note on making sure this doesn’t happen with library books. I use to keep track of my library books for me. Great service. Simply sign up and register all your library cards (I live in one county, but work in another, so I have privelages in both counties for the libraries). If they don’t have your library listed, just ask them. Libraryelf has the ability to interface with many libraries websites and determine what books you have out and it can notifiy you via E-mail a couple of days before they are due to remind you. Great service and very responsive to my request to add my local library.

  2. I’m lucky – Multnomah County Library here in Portland sends out email reminders when books are overdue – and you can renew online indefinitely unless someone has put a book on hold. I bet this cuts down on the fines they collect (maybe thats why they are asking for so much money ona ballot measure!?!)

  3. My goodness. Were you ever in the navy? You certainly have the mouth of a sailor.

    Unfortunately, that’s the only reason I haven’t shown this site to my kids.

    Clean it up, or I’ll stop reading it myself.

  4. What language is a problem? I see nothing offensive in this post?

  5. First two words Dan-O, first two words.

    I guess I never thought to complain about it, but although cursing is one thing, those two words really are just offensive.

  6. Guilty of overdue book fines myself.
    I consider it contributing to the arts.

  7. Sorry, my bad. I started reading in the box… not the words above.

    OK so it’s cursing… but it’s not like the stuff you see/hear in mass media… I’m not offended.

  8. Transcendental Success

    You can get a fine removed if you sneak the book back into the library, claim you returned it, and have them look on the shelf for the book only to see it is actually there.

    It is lying and would stain your eternal soul however, so better to pay the fine.

  9. My brother went to one of the UC schools and had several books overdue. When he finally returned them he found out that they charged overdue books by the hour…ouch!

  10. Here at UGA we get email notices and can renew our books 3 times using a crappy web interface before we have to bring them back to the brick+mortar library or face fines.

    BTW — Ramit, love the site. Cheers

  11. Hahaha! We call that a “learning experience.” At least it’s not a college library, because they’ll hold your degree until you square up your account. Did you ever hear that unpaid library fines can actually affect your credit? Read this article. Page two, near the bottom.

  12. Not a total waste though. Fines provide libraries with important funding. On the scale of stupid mistakes, it’s one of the more socially useful ones you can make.

  13. I hate it when monkeys come and claim that words such as “God Damnit” is offensive!

    Well dont expose ur kids to TV. radio, mass media etc!! PUNK!

    God Damnit…

  14. For the record – since nobody seems to understand this – For most evangelical/fundamentalist Christians and observant Jews, GD is the MOST offensive thing anyone can say. “Fuck” and its lesser cousins pale in comparison. (Yes, I wrote “fuck.”)

    I don’t care about curse words -they’re just words. But “GD” is truly profane.

    I’m not going to preach and threaten to stop reading your blog. Just thought you should know what the “monkeys” are thinking.

    I’m a new reader and I love your blog. That curse, however, does make me break out in hives. Do with it what you like.

    Hugs and kisses.

  15. At least your mistake is a one time mistkake. How about all those college kids with revolving credit? How much are they paying in interest rate from their purchases? Ouch.

    Months after months sending the minimun payment to the multinational banks.

  16. Dan,

    Thanks for the explanation. Now I get it!

    Is “Damnit” by itself offensive?

  17. Balaji M


    Recently I had the same experience and ended up paying quite a good amount of money as fine. Posted my anguish here in my blog.

    Hopefully we will not repeat this mistake again.

  18. ricemutt

    I have to say that the public library system here is the first one I’ve been to where they charge you for placing holds and checking out DVDs/videos. Maybe it’s just another high-cost-of-living-in-California thing.

  19. Been there done that! If your library system doesn’t let you renew online, can you call in to renew instead? And I just take out fewer books now…

  20. I have to say, a few people could stand to read:

    It’s a good thing to read if you’re thinking about doing some investing without first getting some financial know how.

  21. Just think how much it would have cost to buy all those books…

    May as well contribute to a good cause and pay the fine (as much as it stinks to do so).

  22. I’ve seen grad students with bills over $2000. They check out a bunch of books, and forget to return them before leaving over the summer.

  23. I don’t see how libraries can charge late fees above the cost of replacing the books (purchase price + labor), especially if the book is still in print. Ramit, was this part of your argument to get your late fees reduced?

  24. Ramit Sethi

    No, after 2 weeks and 2 days they just switch to the full cost of replacing the books. I don’t remember exactly, but I remember thinking the prices were high ($36.95 for a regular hardcover book!) so I told them I’d come in today to return them. Could they please just revert back to regular fines?

    I suppose I could have tried to negotiate more, but it’s a public library.

  25. You should move to Los Alamos, NM. There the public library doesn’t charge late fees, because they found that people just don’t come back and return the books, if they have a fine to pay. Instead they have an automatic phone service that calls you and kindly asks you to bring the books back.

  26. mamacita

    Ramit — Usually the library has to charge above the replacement cost because they have other expenses associated with acquiring the books — cataloging, special binding, etc.

    You know what really belongs in the “stupid mistakes” category? Speeding tickets! It’s about $120 even if you take the defensive driving route.

  27. Deirdre

    I know I’m answering this years later, but my take on overdue library fees is that they are fees for using the library. When I consider how many books I get to take home for FREE and how much I use the library as a quiet space to spend time or entertain my children, it’s difficult to get upset about the fees.

    I actually belong to a library now that is not allowed to charge overdue fees (something about it’s being connected to the public school system), and I feel much worse about overdue books than I used to. I have to confess that I am not terribly philanthropic in general, but since I was used to paying library fees for years before, my current library is one place where I make a point of donating regularly.

    I love my library, and it terrifies me to think of a world without libraries. I know most libraries are always struggling financially. I’m happy to give them what I can.